Mak suspends don over seeking First Lady’s intervention

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Barnabas Nawangwe during an interview with Daily Monitor at his office in Kampala on July 20, 2022. PHOTO | FRANK BAGUMA 

What you need to know:

  • The interdicted don maintains he is the victim in what Monitor can confirm has been a long-running feud among administrators at CEES and the university itself.

Makerere University Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe has suspended an associate professor, who recently led a doctoral student in seeking the intervention of Education minister and First Lady, Ms Janet Museveni.

Prof Nawangwe says Dr Jude Ssempebwa ignored several warnings to desist from actions that “disrupt the university’s activities, undermine its leadership, and injure its reputation”.

“In order to ensure safety of members of the University Community, especially at the College of Education and External Studies (CEES), and to protect the reputation of the university from your alleged violent, anti-social and disruptive behavior, I hereby interdict you from university service with immediate effect,” Prof Nawangwe said.

Makerere at 100: What needs to change? 

Dr Ssempebwa and his former PhD supervisee, Mr Peter Ntale, have twice sought the intervention of Ms Museveni over delays by CEES administrators to process the student’s thesis defence and graduation.

The March 15 interdiction letter, quoting Section (a) & (b) of the Makerere University Human Resources Manual 2009, also orders Dr Ssempebwa, a senior lecturer at the East African School of Higher Education Studies in the College of Education and External Studies, to prepare to appear before a committee that will be constituted to investigate his alleged conduct.

Dr Ssempebwa’s interdiction comes days after he wrote to the University Council chairperson, Dr Lorna Magara, requesting for “protection.”

“I have been the victim of relentless witch-hunt, malice, discrimination and defamation by that dean, principal, and various people acting on their behalf,” he said in a March 9 letter.

In the letter to Dr Magara, the educationist cited Prof Anthony Mugagga, the principal of CEES, who on February 21 wrote a terse memo warning Ssempebwa against alleged insubordination and abusive behavior.

However, the interdicted don maintains he is the victim in what Monitor can confirm has been a long-running feud among administrators at CEES and the university itself.

In his plea to the University Council, Dr Ssempebwa said his problems started after the dean of his school and the college principal rejected his application for promotion to the rank of professor six years ago.

“Ever since, the students assigned to me, colleagues who endorse my insistence that the university’s policies be followed in our school, and I have been the victimised,” he said.

“The students have been, and continue to be, subjected to unconscionable red tape, discriminatory treatment and faulty examination processes-to fail them and secure disciplinary action towards my dismissal despite my performance.”

Monitor could not readily get a response from Dr Magara on whether the request for protection lacked merit given the turn of events.

However, among the affected students is Mr Ntale, whose completion of doctoral studies has been frustrated for more than two years.

Dr Ssembebwa, who was Mr Ntale’s lead supervisor, and the student have twice appealed to the Education ministry – the latest on February 15 – with Ms Museveni each time asking the University Council to look into the matter.

The interdicted lecturer has also in the past dragged the university to the High Court over alleged mistreatment of students under his supervision and sought the Inspector General of Government intervention as well.

The affected

Speaking to Monitor following his interdiction, Dr Ssempebwa said the vice chancellor had previously subjected him to a similar investigation from which he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“Then from nowhere, I received another warning letter. I have no idea what I did to merit that warning letter. Then this interdiction... Funny how the vice-chancellor finds me guilty until proven innocent, but so is the reality of abuse in the School of Higher Education at the university,” he said.

On August 10, 2021, Mr Javason Kamugisha, the Makerere director of legal affairs, wrote to the university administration, saying the investigation did not incriminate the don of any offence.

However, what Dr Ssempebwa faces now includes allegations of misconduct and abusive behavior, with his communication on some of the university’s WhatsApp groups cited in the interdiction and other memos.

Prof Nawangwe, who was reappointed vice-chancellor in August last year despite age cap concerns, has run the university with an iron fist. 

He has never been afraid to sign a suspension letter against several students and administrators, including in 2019 of academic staff boss, Dr Deus Kamunyu Muhwezi.